“Are you hungry?”
Yes – I didn’t eat all day.
“Sit down with us. What do you want to eat? Do you want a shwarma?”
It was a hot afternoon and after running errands we stopped into a sandwich shop to get something for lunch. That’s when we met Gamal. He was 7. He took a taxi with his mom from Ourika to Marrakech, him to sell packets of tissues to anyone willing to spend 1 dH for something they probably didn’t need, and her to sell sweets.
“Do you go to school?”
Yes I go to school, I’m in 2nd grade this year.
The waiter brought our plates; sandwiches, fries, and a Sprite.
He was polite and quiet, squirting ketchup onto the plate but only a little – not like my son of the same age who would not have thought twice about adding way more than he needed. Gamal wiped the drops that fell off the plate to the table and licked it off his fingers.
“Do you have brothers and sisters?”
Yes, one little brother. He’s 3.
Slowly he nibbled his sandwich but only a little. I wondered why he wasn’t eating when he was hungry.
“Why aren’t you eating walidi (my son)?”
I’m saving some for my mom and brother.
I was fighting tears for most of the meal. Imagining the weight sitting on his little shoulders, feeling the pain in his mothers heart knowing how she must struggle just to feed her boys; and how the aches of hunger are nothing compared to the pain of knowing begging is the only way they might be full that night.
Here, poverty is everywhere. For many it’s a hand to mouth existence. People don’t worry about how they’re going to make it through the month, for many it’s a question of how they’ll make it through the day. Will they make enough today to feed themselves tonight?
1 in 8 people around the world suffer from chronic hunger. In the developing world, the increasing price of staple foods coupled with stagnant wages makes it increasingly difficult for people to feed themselves. The Moroccan government has long subsidized the cost of staples such as milk and wheat and just last month the prices of food and fuel were increased due to a cut back in subsidies that had protected consumers from the real costs of goods. It’s a political calculation as much as much as a humanitarian decision.
Today is World Food Day and October Hunger Awareness Month. Hunger is a real problem around the globe and it’s not because people are lazy or they want to take advantage of “the system.” Americans waste billions of tons of food each year, just reducing consumption can make a big difference. I found this infographic on the World Food Day website that shows some of the statistics on waste.
Other ways to get involved can include donating to your local food bank, raising awareness in your community and on social media, or challenging yourself to budget better and consume less (the food stamp challenge or trying to eat on $1 a day are good examples).
There are so many stories here that I want to tell, and sometimes there is too much sadness, too many hardships, especially when it comes to children. I recently read this article on Slate about why tourists should not give money to child beggars, no matter how many good intentions they have. I have to agree.
I’d love to know, what are some of the ways you have gotten involved to help fight hunger in your local or global neighborhood?